The Social Security numbers, names and addresses of some local patients have been stolen in a massive cyber attack, officials confirmed today.
The criminal attack by a foreign intruder compromised records belonging to about 4.5 million patients of the company Community Health Systems, which includes two Tucson hospitals — Northwest Medical Center and Oro Valley Hospital.
Northwest Medical Center spokeswoman Kimberly Chimene issued a press release that says the local patients affected were seen through Northwest Allied Physicians, a physician practice affiliated with Northwest Healthcare. She does not know how many local patients had their data stolen.
The stolen information did not include any medical information or credit card information, but it did include names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers and social security numbers, officials said.
"We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience to patients," the news statement says.
"Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection."
Chimene says Northwest Healthcare officials believes the intruder was a foreign-based group out of China that was likely looking for intellectual property. The intruder has been eradicated and applications have been deployed to protect against future attacks, she said.
If patients want to speak with someone locally, they may call 469-8339.
The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona says consumers should take steps to safeguard their identities, since the data breach is the latest in a string of high-profile data thefts in the past year that have included well-known companies like Target, Stub Hub and Neiman Marcus.
The BBB offers the following tips to consumers and businesses to avoid being victimized by identity theft:
∫ Check your credit report regularly. Look at your credit report as often as possible for irregular activity, such as lines of credit or unpaid bills that you never authorized. If you see something out of the ordinary contact the credit reporting agency immediately.
∫ Get your free credit report. Every American is legally entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the big three reporting agencies. Consumers can claim their yearly reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
∫ If you believe your identity has been compromised consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze will prevent any lender from accessing your credit reports or scores as part of a credit application.
∫ If you are a victim of ID Theft or your accounts have been compromised and you have created an Identity Theft Report, you can place an extended credit alert on your credit report. An extended alert lasts for seven years. There may be a minimal fee required.
For more information about identity theft and other scams consumers may visit www.bbb.org/tucson or call BBB at 888-5353.